Monday, 14 March 2016

Novak scare but big guns survive Indian Wells Sunday

The conclusion of men's second round and top half of the women's third round matches highlighted Day 5 at the Indian Wells tournament in California and Aga Radwanska was in no mood for another near exit as experienced with Cibulkova.  She whipped Monika Niculescu (figuratively I stress) in quick time 6-2 6-1 to set up a fourth round encounter with Jelena Jankovic who absolutely belted (again not literally) Coco Vandeweghe 6-0 6-1 in what was expected to be a close encounter.  Despite a poor 42% first serve record in the first set Jelena was able to outgun her more powerful opponent throughout and the massacre continued in the second set, this time with a much improved first serve ratio.  The Radwanska/Jankovic clash is one to watch out for, based on current form.

Success also rained on men's seeds Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (7) and Dominic Thiem (11) whose opponents were respectively little opposition for the French crowd pleaser, but hard work for the young Austrian who is setting courts alight across the world this year.
Thiem needed two tie breakers to dispense with Slovakian qualifier Josef Kovalik, ranked 182, but the hit out could be just the tonic for Dominic, facing a tough draw, in the Djokovic and Tsonga target area.
Tsonga himself hardly raised a sweat in the Californian heat, imposing his 15 cm taller frame over qualifier and fellow French player Vincent Millot who has been around the traps for many years for not much success.
Loss though for a disappointing Grigor Dimitrov, seeded 23, who consistently is inconsistent and his promises to one day be one of the top few players and grab a Grand Slam title are growing repetitive and lacking in delivery.
His conqueror today though, 18 year old German Alexander Zverev is on the rise with a big serve to worry even the best.

Kei Nishikori was most impressive and his 6-3 6-3 demolition of Mikhail Kukushkin served warning to all including Djokovic that the 5th seed is a serious contender for the title.
A second French player through to the third round is16th seed Gilles Simon, defeating Canadian Vasek Pospisil, inflicting further pain following the Davis Cup round victory last week. Simon gave up only a single game in the two sets he won.  However the match was looking a disaster for him after the Canadian thrashed him 6-1 in the first set.
Another all French affair saw Adrian Mannarino kick out 19th seed Benoit Paire convincingly.  So while the top seeds remained untouched, the lower seeds had been beaten about a bit - so far seeds 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, and 32 all gone in the second round after first round byes. 

Confident after sending Sara Errani packing, Lesia Tsurenko was even more so after taking the first set from qualifier and veteran Kateryna Bondarenko.  Not so self assured when the comeback kid, whose tennis this year has resembled something like her time in the top 30 in 2009, levelled at a set all and held match points in the third set tie breaker.  It took her sixth such opportunity but Kateryna won - her reward a date with Serena.

American qualifier Nicole Gibbs, ranked 95, shocked compatriot and seeded Madison Keys in the second round, and continued her fun at the expense of another giant killer Yaroslava Shvedova. Shvedova, who'd knocked out 11th seed Lucie Safarova, was stunned 6-0 6-4 by Gibbs whose next battle will be with Petra Kvitova.  
The 8th seed won the first set but was then overtaken by 66th ranked Swede Johanna Larsson who led 5-3 in the decider before the 2 time Wimbledon champ decided to cease the folly and play to her ability. Petra won 6-3 4-6 7-5.

Serena Williams was down a break in the first set and Russian Yulia Putintseva served for it, albeit unsuccessfully.  As she has been able to do more often than not the great one salvaged the situation, winning a tie break. The second set was to love.

Finally the best male player on this planet, and probably any other planet to be fair, was  smashed in his first set by an American 6-2. No it wasn't an Isner or Sock or anyone we could think capable of such a feat.  It was 22 year old qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo, ranked 149.  Novak, after suffering the Bjorn Borg Christian name phobia clicked into gear in the second set, winning all but one point on his serve, after only clinching half of them in a terrible opening stanza.  The set was over smartly 6-1 and he was up a break in the decider promptly.  Bjorn wasn't going away just yet, breaking straight back and carrying the crowd with him.  On serve and trailing 1-2 the world's best lost no more games and won his way to a third round meeting with Philipp Kohlschreiber who released just a single game in dismantling another American Denis Kudla.

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